Not every college football fan thinks that Oklahoma should go to the College Football Playoff, even if the Sooners win the Big 12 Championship Game this Saturday.
But however you feel about the strengths and weaknesses of the Big 12, no real fan can deny that the match-up at Jerry World is a potential classic in the making.
A re-match of Texas’ upset win over Oklahoma earlier this season, the game gives the legendary old foes a chance to settle unfinished business…with the winner taking the league crown.
Odds-makers in Vegas might find such a scenario more stressful than TV viewers and bar customers do…at least those from 48 states.
Who: Oklahoma Sooners vs Texas Longhorns
When: Saturday, December 1st, 12 PM EST
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Lines: Oklahoma (-6) vs Texas (+6) / O/U Total: (78)
]Not only is the conference title on the line in this rematch, but a potential national title is at stake for the Sooners. Heisman hopeful quarterback Kyler Murray has put on a clinic this season and wowed fans with another dose of high-flying Sooner offense in last weekend’s shoot-out win over West Virginia.
Murray ranks 2nd in the nation in passing efficiency, completing 70.6% of his passes for 3,674 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. The electric dual-threat quarterback has been lethal with his legs, and could finish the season with 1000+ yards and several epic TD carries from long range. However, he must learn how to hold the ball tighter in the breadbasket.
Frosh running back Kennedy Brooks is also working on a 4-digit rushing season. Junior wide receiver Marquise Brown has been one of the deadliest deep threats in the country, ranking 8th nationally with 1,264 receiving yards.
But offense isn’t everything. If the Sooners want to have any chance of securing a playoff bid, they will need their defense to have its best outing of the year against the Longhorns. The unit has been mediocre against average teams and nearly a sieve against superior ones. The Okies even gave up 350+ rushing yards against Kansas in an anxious 55-40 win on November 17th.
Meanwhile, Texas Longhorn fans have been waiting years for a season like 2018. A win against the Sooners in Jerry World on Saturday afternoon would give the Longhorns their first Big 12 title in nearly a decade, a 10-win season, and a berth to their first New Year’s Six bowl game.
Just as importantly to the UT faithful, it would make Tom Herman’s team 2-0 against OU this season.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been outstanding, passing for 23 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions and adding a team-leading 11 rushing touchdowns. But Ehlinger might struggle to overcome an injury on Saturday. More from the blog Hook’Em:
After sitting out the second half of last week’s win over Iowa State with a shoulder injury, Ehlinger was 16 of 28 for 154 yards and two touchdowns against the Jayhawks. He threw a second interception in the fourth quarter. Kansas entered this week ranked sixth nationally in forced turnovers.
“I think he would tell you he probably tried to force a few things here and there,” UT coach Tom Herman said. “He was a little bit off throwing the football, just a little bit. I will tell you the wind was real down there.”
Ehlinger finished the regular season with 2,774 yards and has 4,689 yards for his career. Both marks rank eighth in the school’s record books.
Junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey has been one of the Big 12’s best this season tallying 72 catches for 1,058 yards and 8 touchdowns. If Ehlinger gets his touch back and isn’t battered by sacks, he could potentially keep up with Murray and help move the sticks on running plays.
But if I know Tom Herman, he won’t want his QB taking too many chances early on. Coaches tend to miss the plot when a team needs to go all-out on every possession, thinking that their defense can stop anybody.
Texas did stop OU – at least enough times to win – on October 6th. But mostly, the 48-45 upset win could be attributed to an excellent balanced offense and a huge day from Humphrey, who caught 9 passes for 133 yards and went 2 for 2 with a TD as a passer.
Senior defensive lineman Charles Omenihu leads the team with 8.5 sacks. It’s obvious by now that no ordinary Big 12 defense (and Texas is unfortunately not a defensive stalwart despite being ranked #14) can stop Murray or his supporting cast without a constant, effective rush off the edge.
I’m loving Oklahoma and (-6). Nothing motivates a team like having lost to a rival they should have beaten, and the WVU contest showed us a Sooner offense that is a cross between a drag-racer and a monster truck. You can put crush cars in the way, but it’ll run or fly to the end zone so fast that any problems are minimized.
Can Texas keep up? Not with a less-elite QB who may or may not be at 100%. Oklahoma is the true double-digit favorite with the line held back by memories of October.